John Johnston

John Johnston is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Emory University in Atlanta. He is the author of Carnival of Repetition and Information Multiplicity.

  • The Allure of Machinic Life

    The Allure of Machinic Life

    Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI

    John Johnston

    An account of the creation of new forms of life and intelligence in cybernetics, artificial life, and artificial intelligence that analyzes both the similarities and the differences among these sciences in actualizing life.

    In The Allure of Machinic Life, John Johnston examines new forms of nascent life that emerge through technical interactions within human-constructed environments—“machinic life”—in the sciences of cybernetics, artificial life, and artificial intelligence. With the development of such research initiatives as the evolution of digital organisms, computer immune systems, artificial protocells, evolutionary robotics, and swarm systems, Johnston argues, machinic life has achieved a complexity and autonomy worthy of study in its own right. Drawing on the publications of scientists as well as a range of work in contemporary philosophy and cultural theory, but always with the primary focus on the “objects at hand”—the machines, programs, and processes that constitute machinic life—Johnston shows how they come about, how they operate, and how they are already changing. This understanding is a necessary first step, he further argues, that must precede speculation about the meaning and cultural implications of these new forms of life.

    Developing the concept of the “computational assemblage” (a machine and its associated discourse) as a framework to identify both resemblances and differences in form and function, Johnston offers a conceptual history of each of the three sciences. He considers the new theory of machines proposed by cybernetics from several perspectives, including Lacanian psychoanalysis and “machinic philosophy.” He examines the history of the new science of artificial life and its relation to theories of evolution, emergence, and complex adaptive systems (as illustrated by a series of experiments carried out on various software platforms). He describes the history of artificial intelligence as a series of unfolding conceptual conflicts—decodings and recodings—leading to a “new AI” that is strongly influenced by artificial life. Finally, in examining the role played by neuroscience in several contemporary research initiatives, he shows how further success in the building of intelligent machines will most likely result from progress in our understanding of how the human brain actually works.

    • Hardcover $9.75 £8.95
    • Paperback $25.00 £20.00

Contributor

  • Throughout

    Throughout

    Art and Culture Emerging with Ubiquitous Computing

    Ulrik Ekman

    Leading media scholars consider the social and cultural changes that come with the contemporary development of ubiquitous computing.

    Ubiquitous computing and our cultural life promise to become completely interwoven: technical currents feed into our screen culture of digital television, video, home computers, movies, and high-resolution advertising displays. Technology has become at once larger and smaller, mobile and ambient. In Throughout, leading writers on new media—including Jay David Bolter, Mark Hansen, N. Katherine Hayles, and Lev Manovich—take on the crucial challenges that ubiquitous and pervasive computing pose for cultural theory and criticism.

    The thirty-four contributing researchers consider the visual sense and sensations of living with a ubicomp culture; electronic sounds from the uncanny to the unremarkable; the effects of ubicomp on communication, including mobility, transmateriality, and infinite availability; general trends and concrete specificities of interaction designs; the affectivity in ubicomp experiences, including performances; context awareness; and claims on the “real” in the use of such terms as “augmented reality” and “mixed reality.”

    • Hardcover $19.75 £14.99
  • In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, New Edition

    In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, New Edition

    Jean Baudrillard

    Baudrillard's remarkably prescient meditation on terrorism throws light on post-9/11 delusional fears and political simulations.

    Published one year after Forget Foucault, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities (1978) may be the most important sociopolitical manifesto of the twentieth century: it calls for nothing less than the end of both sociology and politics. Disenfranchised revolutionaries (the Red Brigades, the Baader-Meinhof Gang) hoped to reach the masses directly through spectacular actions, but their message merely played into the hands of the media and the state. In a media society meaning has no meaning anymore; communication merely communicates itself. Jean Baudrillard uses this last outburst of ideological terrorism in Europe to showcase the end of the "Social." Once invoked by Marx as the motor of history, the masses no longer have sociological reality. In the electronic media society, all the masses can do—and all they will do—is enjoy the spectacle. In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities takes to its ultimate conclusion the "end of ideologies" experienced in Europe after the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the death of revolutionary illusions after May 1968. Ideological terrorism doesn't represent anything anymore, writes Baudrillard, not even itself. It is just the last hysterical reaction to discredited political illusions.

    • Paperback $14.95 £11.99
  • Foucault Live

    Foucault Live

    Collected Interviews, 1961–1984

    Michel Foucault and Sylvère Lotringer

    The most accessible and exhaustive introduction to Foucault's thought to date, including every extant interview made by Foucault from the mid-60s until his death in 1984.

    Currently in its fourth printing, Foucault Live is the most accessible and exhaustive introduction to Foucault's thought to date. Composed of every extant interview made by Foucault from the mid-60s until his death in 1984, Foucault Live sheds new light on the philosopher's ideas about friendship, the intent behind his classical studies, while clarifying many of the professional and popular misinterpretations of his ideas over the course of his career. As Gilles Deleuze noted, "the interviews in this book go much further than anything Foucault ever wrote, and they are indispensable in understanding his life work." Most notably, Foucault Live includes interviews he made with the gay underground press during his stays in America during the 1970s. In them, Foucault suggests that homosexuality presents a new paradigm for ways of living beyond the predictable, binary couple. All of the philosopher's interests, from madness and delinquency to film and sexuality, and their resultant writings, are probed by knowledgeable critics and journalists. After reading this book, the reader can explore key notions such as episteme, savoir and connaissance, archeology, and archive, without the knitted brow that plagued Foucault's public when he was alive. This is the guide to Foucault's life as an agent provocateur in the world of philosophy and scholarship.

    • Paperback $24.95 £20.00
  • In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities

    In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities

    or, The End of the Social and Other Essays

    Jean Baudrillard

    Baudrillard's remarkably prescient meditation on terrorism throws light on post-9/11 delusional fears and political simulations.

    The whole chaotic constellation of the social revolves around that spongy reference, that opaque but equally translucent reality, that nothingness: the masses. A statistical crystal ball, the masses are 'swirling with currents and flows,' in the image of matter and the natural elements. So, at least, they are represented to us.

    Written in 1978 and first published in English in 1983, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities was the first postmodern response to the delusional strategies of terrorism. At a time when European terrorists were taking politics into their own hands, Baudrillard was the first to announce that the "critical mass" had stopped being critical of anything. Rather, the "masses" had become a place of absorption and implosion; hence the ending of the possibility of politics as will and representation.

    The book marked the end of an era when silent majorities still factored into the democratic political process and were expected to respond positively to revolutionary messages. With the masses no longer "alienated" as Marx had described, but rather indifferent, this phenomenon made revolutionary explosion impossible, says Baudrillard.

    The mass absorbs all the social energy, but no longer refracts it. It absorbs every sign and every meaning, but no longer reflects them... it never participates. It is a good conductor of information, but of any information. It is without truth and without reason. It is without conscience and without unconscious. Everybody questions it, but never as silence, always to make it speak. This silence is unbearable. It is the simulation chamber of the social. As a mere shadow cast by power, the silent majority and its hyper-real conformity have no meaning and nothing to say to us. To that, terrorism responds by an equally hyper-real act equally caught up from the onset in concentric waves of media and of fascination.

    It aims at the mass silence, the masses in their silence. It aims at the white magic of simulation, deterrence, of anonymous and random control, and by the black magic of a still greater, more anonymous, arbitrary and more hazardous abstraction; that of the terrorist act.

    Remarkably prescient, Baudrillard's meditation on terrorism throws light on post-September 11th delusional fears and political simulations.

    • Paperback $11.95
  • On The Line

    On The Line

    Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

    The first presentation of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's concept of the "rhizome."

    A rhizome may be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines. You can never get rid of ants because they form an animal rhizome that can rebound time and again after most of it has been destroyed... There is a rupture in the rhizome whenever segmentary lines explode into a line of flight, but the line of flight is part of the rhizome. That is why one can never posit a dualism or a dichotomy, even in the rudimentary form of the good and the bad. You may make a rupture, draw a line of flight, yet there still is a danger that you will stratify again everything, from Oedipal resurgences to fascist concretions. Groups and individuals contain microfascisms just waiting to crystallize. Yes, couch grass is also a rhizome.

    Edited by Sylvere Lotringer, On the Line was the first book published in the new "Foreign Agents" series in 1983. It gathers together two seminal texts that Deleuze and Guattari would later elaborate on in A Thousand Plateaus. First delivered in French by Deleuze (drawing graphs on the blackboard) at the "Schizo-Culture" conference organized by Semiotext(e) at Columbia University in 1975, "Rhizome" introduced a new kind of thinking in philosophy, both non-dialectical and non-hierarchical. The two didn't expect this neo-anarchical blue-print would eventually offer an early template for the understanding of the internet. "Rhizome" substitutes pragmatic, "couch grass," free-floating logic to the binary, oppositional, and exclusive model of the tree. In "Politics," superceding the Marxist concept of class, Deleuze envisages the social macrocosm as a series of lines, and reinvent politics as a process of flux whose outcome will always be unpredictable. It is, he emphasizes, the end of the idea of revolution, but not of the "becoming revolutionary." Throughout, he keeps dispelling the notion of capitalism as a repressive machine only meant to extract surplus value from exploited workers and suggest that it could be opposed from within by redirecting the creativity and multiplicity of its flows.The multiple must be made, not always by adding another dimension, rather in the simplest way, by dint of sobriety... A rhizome as subterranean stem is absolutely different from roots and radices. Bulbs and tubers are rhizomes... Even some animals are, in their pack forms. Rats are rhizomes. Burrows are too, in all their function of shelter, supply, movement, evasion and breakout... The rhizome includes the best and the worst: potato and couch grass.

    • Paperback $12.95 £9.99